Hard Boiled to Noir to Eternity
Fred Andersen's presentation on classic mystery in print and on film reveals, with fascinating stories and cool images how Hard Boiled/Noir became one of the enduring creations of 20th Century American culture. This is a great show for book, film, mystery fans.ff
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In the meantime, enjoy this article about film noir.
Excerpt: The Parking Lot at Ciro's
Marty drove her back to her car. Twilight. Time for a good wife to be home getting supper ready, and a good husband to stop at the tavern for a beer so the wife will have time to get supper ready. Marty laughed softly. She would probably make it. He didn’t know if Virginia Beckerman burned canned beans, or whipped up gourmet chow with one hand. That was another life. Max’s life. Marty Nuco would be home having dinner with Missus Nuco and all the striplings.
Marty could have many women, which was why he had few. Usually they wanted something from him. But not Virginia. She was totally indifferent to Hollywood, and in fact, longing to leave it. The fact that she was Mrs. Max Beckerman was not inconvenient for Marty. Like most people, Max had a secret he would do almost anything to keep hidden. And like a lot of such secrets, Marty knew it. So if there should be any trouble, Marty would have cards to play.
Marty turned into the driveway of Ciro’s, and stopped in the slot next to Virginia’s car, so she could slip out of the passenger side of his car and into the driver’s side of her own. But Virginia was just taking out a cigarette. She offered him one of hers, and Marty took it, though he didn’t really want it. He guessed he could spare a Now Voyager moment. He lit the cigarettes. Out of the corner of his eye he could see somebody in a white undershirt, maybe a dishwasher, sitting on a beer case by the back door of the restaurant, also smoking, looking at them.
“I know.” Virginia touched his lips with a finger of her soft, cool glove. “G’bye.” She opened the door, and swung her feet out. Marty turned back toward the steering wheel.
He saw the pistol first. He saw the mouth of the barrel of the pistol first. The way the daylight angled into the opening for a fraction of an inch. It was right outside the car window, pointed at the middle of his face. A hand held the pistol, and farther back, at the other end of the arm, Marty saw Max.
“Get out.” Max stepped away, and clearly expected Marty to open the car door.
He did so.
“Max?” Virginia’s voice came over Marty’s shoulder. Still in the car, it sounded like.
“Did you thank I did not know?” Max’s voice was low but strained with rage. “Did you thank I would let you do this?”
“Do what, Max?” Marty got out of the car. Now the gun pointed at his chest. “Take my wife.”
“Max!” Virginia spoke to him angrily in German, and Max spat out a reply in the same language, losing himself to anger briefly, his face red, his chin jerking toward her, his eyes leaving Marty for only a split second. In that moment, Marty collected himself.
“There is nothing going on here, Max.” Marty looked at the pistol, the mouth of the damn thing like the entrance to the Rockfish Tunnel. He made himself believe his words. Everything depended on that. “I haven’t touched your wife. She is thinking of going back to work, as you know. I am frankly discouraging her, but she is insistent. We went over to my office to draw up a contract. It has not been signed.”
Max let out a short, harsh laugh. “I’ve got a private eye who says different.” Virginia said, “You what?”
Marty cut her off. “He’s bluffing. Cut the bullshit, Max. There’s nothing going on.”
Something caught Marty’s eye and he looked up. A young woman leaned out a window, in an apartment on the hill behind the parking lot. The apartment and the window and her face were all bathed in the golden light of the setting sun. Golden. This stranger stared down at them from her bleacher seat with round eyes and a slack jaw. Marty shared her disbelief. After all he had faced, to be shot by a jealous husband. It was a bad way to go.
“You've had your way too many times. I've looked the other way, and God damn me, I've even helped you.” Max took one step back.
Marty realized he had a cigarette in his hand. He lifted the hand. It shook. He took a drag. His lips shook. His chest. He had one last plea. “Max...”
“No bullshit.” Max’s face twisted with a kind of hate Marty had seen before.
He knew it was the last thing he would ever see. “You are going on a trip now,” Max growled and pulled back the hammer.
Virginia whispered, “Max, don’t do it!”
at the corner of Hollywood & Crime
A fable of classic Hollywood, where image is king, but sex is queen, and murder and blackmail are her handmaidens.
The truth behind the shooting of Marty Nuco involves a decade-long cover-up of despicable behavior by some of the most celebrated and powerful people in the movie industry. It also leads to the inescapable conclusion that corruption and lies never die, they just take new names and put on new faces.
The Facts in Back of Lily Torrence (3): Gay in Hollywood
Homosexual characters figure prominently in Lily Torrence. Lily’s mentor, the glamorous and powerful Deborah Boynton, is a lesbian. Her ex-husband, Ted Hardy, is gay. Was this an intentional lavender marriage, or just a willing blindness to reality on the part of two young and ambitious people? Ted was the bigger star when they were married, but Deborah would prove decisively more ruthless in her ambition.
Though utterly destroyed by shame and alcohol after their divorce, Ted has resurrected his career with the help of his iron-willed second wife, a strong faith, and a hit play. It’s not that he is “cured” of homosexuality, but that to indulge that appetite would be a betrayal of the woman who is now the center of his life. So he suppresses, and finds, the book hints, other outlets for his desires.
In my book, the characters are in the grip of their times, the 1930s and ‘40s. A 2017 reader has an entirely different frame of reference. Today there is a level of acceptance that simply did not exist back then. If you were a public figure, especially in Hollywood, you were not gay.
But, in a way, so what? After all, to be in the upper echelons of Hollywood, you had possibly already given up your name, your family history, your cultural background, your natural hair color or hair line. You may well have had sex you didn’t want to have, given up a child or a spouse, and betrayed the one friend or colleague you had sworn never to desert. After all that, the loss of one’s open expression of sexuality was perhaps a minor quibble, or in an overwhelmingly closeted world, maybe even a relief.
The Facts in Back of Lily Torrence (2): Barbara Stanwyck
Biographer Axel Madsen says "unearthing the truth about [Stanwyck's] sexuality would remain impossible," but also notes "people would swear she was…Hollywood's biggest closeted lesbian." And most Hollywood historians admit there's something to rumors that Stanwyck's marriages to Frank Fay and Robert Taylor were studio-backed "lavender marriages" created to keep the closet sealed tight.
The Facts in Back of Lily Torrence (1): Chandler & Wilder
In the picture here, Billy Wilder is glancing with shall we say curiosity at the rather large sallow man in a tweed jacket who happens to be Raymond Chandler. Today, they're both historic figures. When this pic was taken in 1943 they most certainly were not, and they were struggling to write a screenplay of the best-selling novel Double Indemnity. Their efforts would be rewarded with fame and riches as the movie became one of the prototypes and archetypes of film noir.
The story of their collaboration, celebrated in Hollywood lore, is also the kickoff of Lily Torrence.
FRED ANDERSEN FREQUENT AUTHOR
Fred Andersen is a historian and fiction writer who combined two passions to create a Hollywood murder mystery set among the people who created the jaded, doomed characters of the postwar movies we call film noir. He has published articles and stories in journals, magazines, and online.
Mexico is now the second deadliest conflict zone in the world, thanks to the criminal activity of drug cartels and the long history of judicial corruption and weak social institutions. But the border, and America’s power and prosperity protect us from all that.
When drug gang hit men appear at a Phoenix elementary school late one afternoon, a fourth grade teacher and a janitor become the protectors of two immigrant boys, and their lives are changed instantly and permanently. The boys are innocent victims of a Mexican cartel war that has crossed the line in several and serious ways.
As the story proceeds through the consequences of the initial violence, other fateful lines are drawn, and crossed: gangsters easily penetrate the security of a major airport to pull off a kidnapping; an informant double-crosses both the police and the cartel; a drug dealer sells out the people who trusted him most; a child walks deliberately toward his own death.
Line in the Sand combines exciting action and suspense with street level stories about life on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border, and both sides of the law.